Not too long ago, public relations was known as that career Sex and the City Samantha wannabes flocked to. Now, it is a prominent part of business strategy. Everyone’s concerned about their “brand,” maintaining their “image,” and “engaging” their “audiences.” These buzzwords can turn off veteran business owners who dismiss it as a fad, or new entrepreneurs who don’t think they have the resources to devote to hyped up concepts. What’s the real value of PR anyway?
All you need to know about public relations is in its name. Good PR is about building relationships with everyone that influences your business. Why is that important? At a certain point, success becomes less about what you know or do, and more about who you know and who knows you.
PR’s best selling point is that it can grow your business without spending a lot of money. If you do it right. Poorly planned PR will drain your resources with little return. But with a little strategizing beforehand, entrepreneurs can do the work of a high-paid publicist.
Think Like a Publicist
The first step toward effective public relations is analyzing your business. Don’t do PR just for the sake of it. It should actively help you reach your business goals. Take a look at the areas of your business and marketing initiatives that are not meeting your expectations. Then, decide who you need to talk to to improve in those areas. For example:
- Low sales = a need to reach new people
- Lack of repeat clients = a need to reach existing customers
- No recognition by competitors = a need to network with your industry
Congratulations, you’ve identified your audiences. Now it’s time to decide what stories what you have to tell them. Entrepreneur magazine emphasizes the importance of stories to good PR:
What the public wants to hear is a good story. Good PR is the telling of a good story. The better the story, the better the acceptance by the public and the better the public relations. Of course if the story is especially appealing to those that could be your clients, then you could have a PR homerun.
Now, About Those Tactics
You’ve identified your business needs, the people you need to talk to, and the story you have to tell them, NOW it’s time to think about the tactics everyone goes on about. Social media, media relations, speaking engagements, events, blogger relations, and contests… the list goes on and on. How do you decide what tactic is right for you? Go where you audience is.
PR tactics are the channels you use to tell you story. If you are telling a story to customers in an older demographic, Twitter isn’t your best bet. If you are trying to reach industry colleagues, LinkedIn may be a better fit than Facebook. If you want to draw new customers to your store, a feature on a neighborhood blog may be more beneficial than a write up in a major outlet.
Don’t Believe the Hype
It’s a blessing in disguise that many small business owners are forced to do their own public relations work. No one can convey the nuances of your services, understand the needs of your customers, and articulate the value of your business quite like you.
A common mistake for PR newbies is choosing initiatives based on what others are doing. Put your blinders on, be strategic, and do your research. Only initiate PR plans that benefit your business needs. It is tempting to target major media outlets and send your email straight to the editor-in-chief, but you’ll get more traction from the reporter and outlet most relevant to your story. Facebook may be the toast of the social media, but if your audience isn’t there, your presence is pointless.
Make public relations a part of your business planning from the beginning. When making decisions and planning new initiatives, ask yourself how you will tell your story and who needs to hear it. What’s the point in doing good work if no one knows you’re doing it?
“A Dollar and A Dream” spotlights low- and no-cost ways to build a better business. The economy may be lagging, but new resources are empowering small business owners like never before. Follow the series to learn how to take your dreams to the next level without breaking the bank.